Doug Delivers: A sensational spring it was
The spring season and the school year as a whole are now complete. Before shutting the book on the season, let's take a look back at some of the top performances from Staples High.
Most outstanding team: Boys volleyball
After falling short in both the FCIAC and state tournaments in 2012 despite a perfect regular season, Staples entered this year with a newfound determination. The Wreckers weren't going to fall short this year, no way, no how.
Following a season-opening loss to Southington, an eventual state semifinalist, all the Wreckers did was reel off 21 straight wins -- 18 of them sweeps -- and captured both conference and L state crowns.
In the state final against top-seeded Glastonbury, the Wreckers dropped the first game 26-24, before taking the next three, 25-17, 25-13, 25-23. Having returned to the state's mountaintop for the first time since 2009, the Wreckers savored the moment.
"We've been in states a couple times ... but we were never able to close it. This is such a big thing for us," junior middle hitter Lucas Grevers said after the final.
With powerful hitters at the net in senior Lucas Carstens and Grevers, along with an assist-machine in senior setter Harry Hlawitschka, Staples was a nightmare for opponents to account for. The Wreckers had too many finishers and were far too efficient -- unforced errors were a rare occurrence -- for other teams to counter.
In a conference that's generally regarded as one of the state's strongest, Staples was in a league of its own talent-wise. The Wreckers beat perennial power Ridgefield three times -- once in the FCIAC final and state semifinal -- and also dispatched of other contenders: Fairfield co-op, Greenwich, Darien.
A program that's established itself as one of the best in the sport, Staples has now won eight titles in the state and 11 in conference. This season's team only strengthened the program's legacy.
Most outstanding male athlete: Henry Wynne, outdoor track
I didn't waste much time considering Wynne for the same honor in both the fall and winter seasons. This time was no different.
Wynne again was at another level, breaking records and staking a popular claim as Staples' best-ever runner. The senior cemented his illustrious season -- and high school career, for that matter -- at the New Balance Nationals on June 16, cruising to first place in the mile in 4:07.84. If not for the gusty winds that swept through Greensboro, N.C. during the race, his time might've been even faster.
A champion at all levels -- FCIAC, LL state, State Open, New Englands, Nationals -- Wynne had a motor that never sputtered.
"He's the best we've ever had at the distances that he's running," longtime Staples coach Laddie Lawrence said.
Most outstanding female athlete: Hannah DeBalsi, outdoor track
Much like Wynne, there's a good reason why this isn't the first time I've selected DeBalsi for a top award. Despite being just a freshman, DeBalsi established herself as one of the premier athletes in her sport.
DeBalsi won the two-mile race at New Englands on June 8 (10:10.26) and then again in the Nationals last Saturday, shattering records in the process. She set both the girls state two-mile mark (10:41.79) and national freshman two-mile mark (10:19.0).
Top newcomer: Faith Garcia, girls golf
I generally hand out this award to freshmen only. But while Garcia was a junior in the literal sense, she was new to the school -- and to the league, in some ways.
After spending her first two years at Trinity Catholic, settling into the lineup for the Crusaders' boys team -- they're one of just 10 FCIAC schools with no girls golf team -- she established herself at the No. 1 spot for the Wreckers.
Garcia averaged a 3-over par during the season and finished sixth (11-over 85) at the state championships. She led the Wreckers to runner-up finishes in both the conference and state meets.
She capped the season with a 10th-place finish at the New England Championships on Monday at Bretwood in Keene, N.H., carding a 6-over 78.
Best coaching performance: Paul McNulty, boys lacrosse
Both McNulty and his players talked all season about hanging tough with the FCIAC's premier programs, the likes of Darien, New Canaan and Ridgefield. This year, the Wreckers did that -- and then some.
After knocking off New Canaan for the first time during the regular season, the Wreckers played their best late. The No. 3 seed in the L state tournament, the Wreckers made it all the way to the finals, letting a second-half lead slip away in a 14-8 defeat to No. 4 Fairfield Prep.
Staples wasn't always the most explosive team during the season, but it sure found ways to win. The Wreckers (16-5) took a significant leap forward.
Best game: Staples boys lacrosse 8, New Canaan 7, double overtime, April 20
All game, neither FCIAC contender pulled away. The Rams, a perfect 5-0 entering the day, held onto a one-goal lead entering the fourth quarter. But the Wreckers, resilient as ever, tied it with 18 seconds left on a goal by Colin Bannon to force overtime. After a scoreless first extra session, Will Johnson gave the Wreckers a milestone victory -- their first-ever against the Rams -- by scoring with 3:04 left in double overtime.
"It was unbelievable to win," Johnson said afterward.
Best quote: "I was very excited. Just like the fact that everybody played so well, I am on cloud nine right now." -- Melissa Beretta, Staples girls tennis player following her team's 4-3 win over New Canaan on April 4.
Staples had struggled over the years against New Canaan -- the defending L state champion and FCIAC runner-up -- but the Wreckers reversed that trend in their lone matchup in 2013. Showing balance at both the singles and doubles spots, the Wreckers bested one of the state's elite.
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